Professional doctorates as a space of resistance in neoliberal times: a symposium

In this era of neoliberalism, secondary schools are being run like corporate institutions rather than educational institutions and now have a need to be economically viable. Competition between schools for student enrolments and government funding (Baltodano, 2012) has resulted in funding being reallocated towards economic rationalisation (Apple, 2000) rather than education. It has been suggested that the students have now become the clients, but it could be argued that the parents are the clients and the students are the product who have to be quality controlled and value added along the production line of classes. Teachers are there to ensure that quality is maintained and the quality assurance method is standardised testing. The neoliberal ideal of economic rationality (Apple, 2000) has led to a culture of competition in education. In an effort to save money through staffing, a tension of anxiety seems to have developed among teachers (Ball, 2003) who, rather than collaborating, feel like they are in competition with their colleagues. Restructuring of organizations and developing new policies may have more to do with asserting authority than the needs of educational efficiency or effectiveness .There seems to be a trend where experienced teachers are being marginalised and replaced by less experienced teachers who have a lower salary. This makes them more economically viable in the short term but reduces the social capital of the school which may have a negative effect on the quality of the education being provided.With the intent of ever improving teaching practice, the Doctorate of Education learning space and community provides an opportunity for reflexivity (Forbes, 2008) in a communal learning environment. Using discourse analysis to discover neoliberal trends (Rogers, 2011; Bacchi, 2009) and then being able to discuss them with colleagues provides a collaborative thinking and discursive space in which current policies can be contested. This results in shared analysis, different perspectives and more comprehensive and consolidated understandings of neoliberal trends and their effect on teaching and schooling. There seems to be a general lack of awareness in relation to neoliberalism among the teaching population of secondary schools although the effects are obvious to teachers and they are often discussed. By working collaboratively with many other teachers, the doctorate becomes a space of resistance. Undertaking research in our place of employment generates interest among other teachers leading to an increased awareness of neoliberalism among the schools’ learning community.